In a new age of comedy that has encouraged Carlos Mencia’s continuing existence, the “COPS” parody still seems like the cheerleader’s frumpy little sister. Everybody’s done it, because it’s not any kind of a challenge. Classic, venerable television shows have piled on, including “SNL”, “Mr. Show”, and even “The X-Files.” However, until Comedy Central’s “Reno 911” came along, no one had ever thought about marrying the poor girl - that is, turning the concept into a series. A few years ago, some of the cast members from MTV’s “The State” did just that, putting together three whole seasons that fake-documented the hapless members of the Reno Sheriff’s Department as they patrolled the streets of the notoriously lewd city, finding mayhem and uncomfortable pauses at every turn.
Reno 911!: Miami (Unrated) is the next logical step for the show, which has found cult success on cable. Full-length movie versions of T.V. shows that suck are becoming more commonplace, with that Family Guy feature and the godawful ATHF film coming out recently. Reno 911!: Miami takes the format of the series and extends it into one long (but short, by cinematic standards) gag about the professional and sexual ineptitude of these cops. The characters are obvious improv-troupe creations, whose actions are always predictable because they are bound to certain behavior guidelines.
For instance, Lt. Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon) is the leader, who is a semi-closeted control-freak that wears hot pants and causes more damage the more he asserts himself. His jokes mostly fall under the category of “trying to hit on men, then playing it off.” Dep. Trudi Weigel (Kerri Kenney) is a mousy emotional weirdo who is self-destructively in love with Jim. Her act is to add strange personal information to any conversation, then get shot down. Dep. Travis Junior (Ben Garant, who directs) is the country-fried idiot who loves guns and hitting people. Naturally, he will be expected to say something stupid or tellingly sadistic and not realize it. Dep. Garcia (Carlos Alazraqui) is the casual racist, Dep. Johnson (Wendy McLendon-Covey) is the slut, Dep. Kimball (Mary Birdsong) is the lesbian, Dep. Jones (Cedric Yarbrough) is the black lothario, and Dep. Raineesha Williams (Niecy Nash) is the snappingly “urban” black woman. The way they interact together is not unlike a bunch of wind-up toys set loose in a room together. They will trot around, as they are made to do, and occasionally one will bump into another.
The plot of the film is unbelievably simple. The Reno Sheriffs are invited to attend the American Police Convention on Miami Beach. As an opening joke at their expense, Lt. Dangle informs the group that they were invited because: “Everybody was invited.” Funny, right? Unfortunately, when they arrive, they are stonewalled at the registration desk because they are not on the list. Seems to not make any sense at all considering the earlier information, but the writers so want to make us laugh at these no-luck dunderheads that they have to devise contradictory and implausible scenarios for them so that we can.
Despite the setback, the crew decides to stay in Miami, and, after a night of drinking (culminating with the only funny scene in the movie: a Wes Andersonian long-take that chronicles each officer’s carnal disappointment and descent into masturbation), they arrive at the convention only to find it quarantined. A toxic agent has been released in the building, and the FBI is on the scene to investigate and search for the antidote. However, with nobody available to run Miami’s day-to-day law enforcement, the Reno Sheriffs are assigned to the job.
The rest of the film’s running time is devoted to a series of 911 calls that suspiciously play out like individual sketches. The jokes are two sides of the same coin: either the scene is awkward, “Office”-style humor derived from the policemen’s lack of professionalism, or it is over-the-top, madcap humor because the “perp” is a gay guy on roller skates or a beached whale. All you can really hope to see is either a clumsy, strange moment between two people, or an outlandish non sequitur that comes from nowhere. A perfect example: The bumbling cops answer a call under the wrong code, misinterpreting it as a gunman on a roof. When they arrive at the scene, it is instead a chicken running around on an empty road. Instead of realizing “this isn’t even a crime,” they try and catch the chicken, at times even attempting to scare it with bullets. Eventually, one of those zany buffoons shoots himself. The writers thought it’d be funny to see a group of morons put their heads together trying to nab a loose chicken. It isn’t, but that’s not the point. The point is, it doesn’t follow. It’s just another excuse to get our wind-up friends to do their little dances.
The needless cameos from people like Danny Devito, Paul Rudd (as a Tony Montana figure), Patton Oswalt, and The Rock don’t help. The fact that each of the original members of “The State” show up in this only reminds me of how much better that show was. Reno 911!: Miami (Unrated) has no more than three good moments, and I can only remember one right now. I’ve got to say, that this trend of improv actors bringing their “kooky” characters into movies must cease, or at least stop sucking. Couple that with this cringy, talking-at-the-same-time awkwardness thing that’s also going on, and I may soon lose my shit. I know it will probably be awhile before comedy rights itself again, but until that time, can we at least try to stop chasing trends and come up with some new ideas? Seriously, “COPS?" That crap wasn’t even funny at the time.
This DVD of Reno 911: Miami (Unrated) is unrated, a fact that is excruciatingly obvious right from the beginning. The disc menu features a short snippet of the film characters breaking the fourth wall to explain to us how they can now get away with saying words like “ballsucker” and “shitlicker.” However,the disc’s “unratedness” comes not so much from foul language, but from the other bane of the MPAA: adult situations. There is a good amount of naughty content added in to the film from when it was shown in theaters. The DVD boasts many topless women, and even an extensive softcore sex scene that is played off as a joke. I saw the gag coming six weeks ago, but the real funny part is how many young lads might be inclined to rent the film and scan over to the scene, watching it for totally unaesthetic reasons. This is also a good excuse to rent Original Sin or Doppleganger, kids.
Besides the added smut, there are plenty of features for fans of the Comedy Central series to get lost in. The bonus material includes a trailer for the film, as well as trailers for “if you like this, you’ll love…” movies. Among those, I must take time to recommend a film called Grandma’s Boy for those who haven’t seen it. The movie is dumb, but really an underrated good time.
There is a group of deleted/extended scenes, all of which tilt toward the “Office”-ish awkwardness that these characters tend to display. In the extended scenes, situations that were quickly resolved by merciful cuts go on for decades longer, so as to maximize that awful spiders-crawling-on-you feeling you get when somebody onscreen is making an ass of himself. The deleted scenes likewise take too long, and have no context within the movie. Then again, what did? The scenes are fitted with commentary by the “main” sheriffs: Lt. Dangle, Dep. Weigel and Dep. Junior. This is one of only two places on the disc where the three do not act in character. The rest of the materials on the DVD are like working with Jim Carrey or Robin Williams: a tedious exercise in unfunny people who won’t turn it off for even a second.
There are three commentary tracks, not including the one on the extended scenes. The first is a serious overview by director Ben Garant and co-writers Lennon and Kenney that details a few interesting facts from the set. They tell stories and point out “secret people” that acted as extras in the film but were really friends of theirs. Great. The other two commentary tracks are done as both halves of the Reno Sheriff’s Department - the main officers (Dangle, etc.) in one, and the “secondary” group (Williams, Jones, Johnson, Garcia, Kimball) in the other. Both are annoying and offer nothing except more time with people I’ve come to hate, although fans will definitely prefer these tracks over the first.
There is a short, ten-minute quasi-behind-the-scenes thing called “Fox Movie Channel Presents: World Premiere.” In it, a real-life entertainment reporter interviews all the cast members in their characters at the actual Hollywood premiere of the film. It’s a pretty “meta” moment, as actors playing sheriffs at a premiere are actually at a premiere for their own movie about sheriffs. Also, it’s lame.
Finally, the last of the special features is a series of fake-PSAs with the cops purposefully underacting to fit the parts of real cops who do PSAs. The announcements are about the many no-nos one should avoid when going to the movies, so I assume they were part of the ad campaign for the film. There is one about talking in the theater that is “hosted” by Dep. Weigel that’s pretty funny. She, for no reason at all, snaps and goes off on people who bring their loud-ass babies to movies. I agree with that sentiment. If you have a baby, but you want to go out, put it in a kennel.
You could see it as a strength or a flaw, but the fact is Reno 911: Miami (Unrated) is exactly like the show. It’s not even much longer. Dedicated fans will love what this unrated DVD has to offer, because stupid people are easy to please. Me, I found myself dreaming of walking into Second City or The Groundlings studio with a flak-jacket full of shurikens and ending the whole “improv comedy” craze once and for all. The whole thing is so transparent, it’s become irritating to watch. I don’t see how people could enjoy characters’ stepping over each other’s dialogue and exchanging odd, inside-jokey glances. When a decent joke is finally made, it’s only after many dragging minutes of the actors trying to figure out what might be funny here. In the rare instance the troupe does write something down, it’s just an unrealistic situation for the stale characters to deal with. The fact that the movie's (really the series') premise is nothing more than a well-worn lampoon makes the whole project a double homicide, with two mangled comedy corpses lying face-down in the billiard room.